THE SWEAT stung my eyes. It ran down both cheeks and collided underneath my chin. It fell from the tip of my nose into my beer (as if it wasn”t watered down enough already) and it rolled down my back into the forbidden valley.
This was the Marquee awaiting the late, late arrival of Grand Slam in a stifling sauna bath atmosphere you could’ve slit with a blade. This was an oven of expectancy; a smouldering tin of sardines poised to cast eager eyes of examination over the bouncing baby fathered by Phil Lynott.

It’s been a while since this pen pusher felt the goose -bumps crawl as the lights died and wore an ear-to-ear grin as guitars were dropped over shoulders. But admiration for Lynott, a past member of one of the best and most accessible rock bands of the last decade, Thin Lizzy, coupled with the confidence in his new band, gained from a tantalising taster at rehearsals a few weeks earlier had me hooked.

Suddenly there was a shrill dipping note from keyboardsman Mark Stanway chased by a rowdy rattle from skinsman Robbie Brennan and ‘Yellow Peril’ gloriously crushed its pop connotations, revelling in its set-opening splendour.

Hot on its tail, newie ‘Nineteen’ scorched along on crude teenage energy featuring the digital brilliance of Lawrence Archer, while ‘Sisters Of Mercy’ built into a pricely reminder of ‘Emerald’.
‘Military Man’ marched on brute raunchiness either side of its tear-jerking soft centre and mushroomed into a mighty mountain-sized masterpeice, before Slam smooched into the realms of funk with the excellent ‘Harlem’. Here Stanway’s silvery keyboard scatterings and the sweet twin- soloing of Archer and Doish Nagle iced Lynott and Brennan’s funky foundations and showed us that all the bands songwriting aspirations don’t lie solely in Riff Street.
Next up, Lynott cast a nostalgic glance over his shoulder, steering Slam through the evergreen ‘Parisian Walkways’ and the sweltering ‘Cold Sweat’. After that, it was back to the blistering newies in the shape of the cartwheeling ‘Crazy’ and the Lizzy-esque ‘Dedication’, as the boards burned, the sweat streamed and the sardines raved.

Pausing only slightly for a well-earned gasp of breath, Lynott inevitably asked if we were “out there” then bounced into ‘Dear Miss Lonely Hearts’ to the accompaniment of our hoarse hollers and ‘helping hands’, adding a few snatches of ‘Some Guys have All The Luck’ and ‘Every Breath You take’ before ounching the air in triumph and withdrawing his troops.

Encores were a cert, of course, and Slam delighted us with a marvellous mixture of ‘Whiter Shade Of pale’and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’. Such an exercise (obviously there as a filler as the band hadn’t enough original material for a whole set) could’ve been a disaster, providing ample food for the cynics to feed on. But the quintet carried it off with class and style.

More sweat, more applause and another barnstorming encore, the name of which I can’t even remember. But what does it matter? The sardines stomped and cheered for five minutes and the band could’ve returned time after time. I hurriedly jotted down “best gig this year” in my soggy notes and rejoined the clapping.


SERGEANT ROCK comes lurching towards me. Slightly overweight, yet looking the part in his shiny jackboots, half-opened shirt and obligatory skin-tight strides, he quickly swaps hands with the huge bottle he¹s holding (which I can assure you isn¹t lemonade), rubs his palm a couple of times on his thigh and holds it out in a friendly greeting.

In the fading sunshine of the afternoon, the Sergeant, better known to y’all as Phil Lynott, is taking a breather with his men during their arduous stretch of rehearsals. He looks knackered.
“I am knackered,” he announces. “We’ve been here from two to ten six days a week and we’ve really put some hard work into these rehearsals. I mean, I’ve been so tired I haven’t been able to go out raving recently! But I’m not complaining. In fact I’ve been really keen to practice so much and my playing is getting better because of it. Anyway, it’s all worth it when everything is so fresh and sharp like it is now with us. With Lizzy, a rehearsal was just showing the new guitarist the songs, but now we¹re all starting out together and ideas are coming in thick and fast.”

The band in question is Grand Slam. Arisen from the ashes of Thin Lizzy, it’s solely responsible for the new twinkle in Lynott’s eye and the boyish enthusiasm which radiates from him at the very mention of things new. After the personal and professional heartbreak he suffered last year, Lynott needed a new socket in which to plug his energy and creativity. He needed a fresh start and a new challenge, and before the dust had time to settle on that famous mirrored bass, he was proudly parading as new set of troops.

From Stampede, there’s one of the most promising young guitarists, Lawrence Archer. From the highly underrated Magnum there’s keyboard player Mark Stanway and from Ireland there’s two much-respected session men, Doish Nagle on guitar and ex Auto-Da-Fe stixman, Robbie Brennan. But enough of my boring brays, let the Sergeant take up the story.

“When Lizzy ended, me Sykesy and Downey were gonna stay together and I grabbed Doish and Mark for a tour of Sweden as the Three Musketeers. It was really only a bit of fun, to check out the audiences’ response and so on. Anyway Sykesy got..erh..paid to join Whitesnake, “he says with a rye smile, “so I decided to check out Lawrence after Jimmy Bain told me a bout him. I was a bit sick and disillusioned when Sykesy left and I even considered joining (sorry, no names!). But I liked Lawrence’s playing so much that I decided to stick with the band and we prepared for a tour of Ireland. Unfortunately, just before the tour, Downey left because he didn’t want to go back on the road again. He’d had so much time off since Lizzy ended, he’d got used to being with an’ that. He wasn’t prepared to leave his home again for long periods of time.”

What about the pact that you two made years ago about always working together?
“Well, he made a bigger pact with his wife and kids, y’know!” Phil chuckles. “And I think that one was a more permanent than the one he made with me. But there¹s no bad blood between us at all and I wish him and Scott (Gorham) the best of luck in whatever they do in the future.”
What WILL Brian Downey do now?

“Oh, I think he’ll just do some session work in Ireland and he’s hoping to set up a drum clinic as well. He’ll just be taking things easy. He was the quiet one in Lizzy, I s’pose – the one who always went to bed first! But it’ll be strange playing without him, all the same.”
So exist Brain Downey and enter one Robbie Brennan. Over to the Sergeant again.
“During the break I’d been doing lots of silly things things like production and basically just fiddling round in the studio trying to get away from it all. I’d worked with Junior, an Irish folk band and Auto-Da-Fe, who Robbie played for. He’s a very good drummer and I’ve worked with him before, so When Downey left he was an ideal choice.

Once I’d got the line-up complete, we went out on the road and did a few dates in Ireland.” Phil continues, “!but it was really just an experimental tour and we used the kids as guinea pigs to test out a few things. It went down great, but then 50% of the material we did was Lizzy material, so that might have been something to do with it,” he adds with that familiar chuckle.
Did you mind having to play Lizzy stuff?

“Oh no,” fill drawls, “I was really proud to be in Thin Lizzy. If Thin Lizzy wasn’t a great band I would’t have been in them for ten years. But the way I looked at it was like this; when Lizzy started we did 50% of other peoples material just like most new bands do, so I adopted that attitude and thought if we we’re gonna do other people’s material we might as well do Lizzy’s” he grins cheekily.

“We soon got tired of that though, because it started to sound like we were another version of Lizzy. So when we did our first dates over here we made sure we had our own material sorted out. Now we only do two Lizzy numbers: ‘Sarah’ which Lizzy never did live anyway, and ‘Cold Sweat’. The kids have really been on our side so far, ” Phil continues, trying to ignore Brennans yelps of delight having hit a tin can on the wall with an air-rifle, “but I hope people that come to see us realise that it’s early days yet. At the moment we’re just constructing a comfortable working atmosphere. I don’t want to come in and rehearse blatant riffs. I feel it¹s very important to have some kind of tangible aspect that the Who had or the Stones have. Y’know you’re listening to the Stones and they just sound like the same old Stones – but all of a sudden there’s a certain feeling there and it’s a great record. We’re trying to build up a feeling between us as musicians and to help us we’re doing a funk number called ‘Harlem’. I don¹t want this band to become Germanic in any way, and even though I feel it should be playing heavy music, there’s gonna be more than that.”

There certainly is, if the glimpse of rehearsals I was treated to was anything to go by. Despite the fact that they’ve only been together for a short while, the band seem naturally integrated and perfectly at ease with each other, in spite of the constant demands and instructions that have earned lynott the nickname of Sergeant Rock.

The six-string rapport between Archer and Nagle is both exciting and enterprising, with the former handling some dazzling lead work and the later offering him a punchy but controlled cushion to spring from.

Robbie Brennan, the amiable Irishman with the Phil Collins hair do, complements the Sergeant’s leading bass lines as well as Brian Downey did for years and Mark Stanway adds the atmospherical third dimension to sweet effect. With the Sergeant calling the orders, Slam rifle through some excellent new songs and some rejuvenated oldies. I’m profoundly impressed.
“it’s a bit awkward at the moment,” Phil pants as we resume our verbal in the cooling afternoon breeze outside, “because I’m still working on my bass parts and formulating some of the lyrics, so I can’t really have a go at them if they get things wrong! I have been chasing them up a bit though, but once I get myself sorted out I’ll be on their backs even more! In fact, I’m being too harsh on them at the moment, but I know that the critics and the supporters will be even harsher if they’re not performing at their peak, so I’m not letting up.”

THE SERGEANT is obviously relishing his new endevours. He doesn’t have much time for nostalgia and feels excited about coming back into things underrated.
“I don¹t feel I have any god-given right to success because of what I’ve done before,” he explains honestly, “and I want Grand Slam to be successful for itself and not because it’s Phil Lynott’s band. I wouldn’t want any band to be a cheap imitation of Thin Lizzy and I’m trying to make sure that this band isn’t built around me.”

But wont it be difficult to steer clear of any Lizzy comparisons, as for most people you WERE Thin Lizzy?
“Well I can’t help being Phil Lynott, y’know,” he chuckles again. “There is gonna be a comparison because I do lead the band, but as much as you could say that Mick Jagger is the Stones, you can’t say that Keith Richards isn’t the Stones as well. So as much as you could say I was Thin Lizzy, you can’t say that the kids didn’t also come to see some of the best lead guitaists around. I suppose I will dominate the Slam sound, but it’s a different group of musicians and a different set of songs, so it’s really a different band altogether.”
One major difference between Grand Slam and Thin Lizzy is that Slam have only one lead guitarist, where as Lizzy’s distinctive sound came from twin lead guiarists.

“That’s right, ” Phil nods, “this time I’m featuring the one guitarist and I’ve got Doish there for that ‘feel’ I was talking about earlier. I found that it’s easier to get a balance rhythm player who knows his position and doesn’t try to steal the spotlight from the other guitarist. Anyway, one of my main aims for the band is to feature Lawrence because I’ve worked with some of the best guiatrists around and he’s potentially as good as any of them.”

With that, the Sergeant strides across the rubber-spaghetti floor covering of elcetric leads to resume rehearsals with the forthcoming Marquee gigs foremost in his mind. As yet, the band haven’t singed a record deal and the sweatbox capital gig is to be their showcase.

“The Marquee shows are inportant,” Phil stresses later, “because there’ll be a number of record companies there and it’ll be nice to get a deal on the strength of our live show rather than because we make good demos or take good photographs. I want to see who’s into the band because we make good music and I’m trying to get away from the celebrity thing. Who cares if I used to be in Thin Lizzy or Mark used to be in Magnum? Let’s just say, ‘look, here’s Grand Slam.”

AND THAT’S exactly the forthright attitude the band displayed at their glorious Marquee work-out a couple of weeks earlier. The Sergeant’s harsh drilling has honed them into a razor-sharp outfit and they slashed through a very impressive set.
Backstage, the Sergeant slumps shattered into his seat , swigging the shampoo like it’s going out of fashion. He’s very pleased.

“I though it was very good,” he beams proudly, “even though I had a bit of trouble breathing because of the heat. “We’re developing well.”


Slam area well balanced team of top notch musicians who’re complementary and inspirational to each other. The Laurence Archer / Doish Nagle guitar partnership is increasing in confidence all the time, the keyboard contributions of Mark Stanway are calssy and effective without being presumptuous, whilst the punchy, up-front rhythm rapport between Lynott and drummer Robbie Brennan revs like a finely tuned engine.

Also the band’s strength in depth of material is exemplary. Kicking off with the familiar ‘Yellow Pearl’, they intertwined a glittering array of new material, such as ‘Nineteen’, ‘Sisters of Mercy’ and ‘Crazy’, with the ravishingly revamped oldies like ‘Parisienne Walkways’, ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘Dear Miss Lonely Heart’, sounding sharper and fresher than Lizzy did in their later stages.

But for me, two songs stood out, encapsulating Slam’s potential, ‘Harlem’ is a relaxed, slightly funky dedication to New York’s slum area, that I’m confident would stroll into the Top 20.And ‘Military Man’ is a powerful anti-war blitz. Built ironically on a military style Brennan beat and incorporating a tear-jerking middle verse that really hits home. Just wait for the album kiddies, this’ll be a classic.

In case you didn’t guess, GS went down a storm and returned for three encores in the shape of ‘Whiter Shade Of Rolling Stone’ (a clever combination of the two famous oldies), ‘Crime Rate’ and ‘Breakdown’. They could’ve easily come back for more, but by now they’d done enough to ridicule their lowly billing and make it extremely difficult for the following bands.

One band I’ve been checking out regularly for the past six months, however, is the quite spiffing Grand Slam, who tonight were kicking into the last few dates of their first nationwide tour. And as anyone who has seen them on this stint will tell ya, they were shit hot.
Since those simmering summer days, Slam, under the leadership of Sergeant Phil Lynott, have harnessed their initial explosion of (nervous?) energy and are now settling down with their growing individual rapport into a controlled and confident outfit.

Tonights powerful and passionate performance boasted (already) Slam classics like ‘Nineteen’, ‘Sisters Of Mercy’, ‘Military Man’ and ŒDedication¹ along with valuable antiques like ‘Yellow Pearl’, ‘Parisienne Walkways’, ‘Cold Sweat’, ‘Dear Miss Lonely Heart’ and a coupla fine new songs hot from the rehearsal room, ‘Can’t Get Away’ and ‘Gay Boys’.

Both newies have ‘Lynott’ stamped all over them, of course, but cynics should take note that Slam are moving further away from the ‘Lizzy sound all the time. Indeed, the brilliant ‘Can’t Get Away’ seems to be an idication of Lynott’s intention to sell Slam Stateside, and its enchanting, emotive quality plus a catchy chorus offers strong 45 potential.

The other recent addition, ‘Gay Boys’ (no names as the bribe money arrived this morning, dear), is also a cracker, with an hilarious lyric that I suspect has nothing whatsoever to do with a certain mishap in Norway a coupla years ago, eh Phil?

Grand Slam are well on the way to achieving the kind of rapport Lizzy had with their audience and tonight the band were called back for 4 encores, plus a fast-rockin’ version of the popular terrace chant, ‘Here we go, here we go’ etc, in a knackering 90min set that left Lynott litterally speeechless.

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